Anisimov not satisfied with successful sophomore season
Sunday March 27th 2011, 3:52 pm
Artem Anisimov

Photo: Yarsport

With seven games remaining in his second NHL season, New York Rangers center Artem Anisimov has already eclipsed the numbers he put up in every major statistical category during his rookie year.  And his current 18-24-42 stat line is on par with those achieved by current linemates Brandon Dubinsky (13-28-41) and Ryan Callahan (22-18-40) in their respective sophomore seasons, fueling hope that his career will take a similar trajectory as his two teammates’, who currently lead the team in scoring.

As Anisimov told Sovietsky Sport correspondent Alyssa Volbidakht following last week’s match-up with the Ottawa Senators, he isn’t satisfied with his sophomore production, and recognizes that there’s room for improvement. In the interview, translated below, the the 22-year old Yaroslavl native also discussed the Rangers playoff aspirations, their Madison Square Garden neighbors the New York Knicks, and why he chose to wear the number 42.

- It would seem that the Rangers really don’t want to be the last playoff seed.

- That’s the truth.  We need to win each game. The more points we collect, the further the separation from those pursuing us.

- As your goaltender Henrik Lundqvist likes to say, “Every day I remind myself that last season we missed the playoffs by only one point.”

- Exactly! Now we could even overtake Montreal.  We’re looking at those in front of us, instead of behind.

- Are you happy with your successes this season?

- No.

- But you have good statistics!

- Could have been even better.  There are very good examples in the league.  Steven Stamkos, the Sedin brothers, Pasha Datsyuk, Ilya Kovalchuk, Sasha Ovechkin, Zhenya Malkin… I need to improve myself, to raise the level of my play.

- It’s possible that you’ll meet some of those guys at the world championship.  Will you be going to the national team?

- It depends on the situation in the NHL.  For us the most important thing now is the playoffs.  The further we go, the better.  But if there’s a misfire and the Rangers are knocked out, I’ll gladly play for my native team Russia.

- Do you go to New York Knicks basketball games?  After all, you play in the same arena…

- I’ve never been.  There’s not enough time.  But I’d really like to get out [to one].

- So you didn’t get acquainted with Timofey Mozgov.

- Well… We saw each other in the training center where the Knicks and Rangers train together.  We met during lunch in the cafeteria, said hello…

- After the Knicks traded Mozgov for Karmelo Anthony, they lost seven of eight games!

- That’s how it goes.  Sorry, I really don’t follow the NBA intently.

- Why did you choose the number 42?

- When I played in Hartford, I wanted to take the number 12.  But the sweater with that number was already hanging from the rafters of the local arena…

- Actually, 12 is the only number removed from circulation there.  In honor of the former forward and captain Ken Gernander, who now coaches your farm club.  He’s the AHL record-holder for goals in the playoffs – 123.

- And then I wanted to take the number 24, because that’s my birthday.  But my conscience wouldn’t allow it — my friend [Devil's prospect Alexander Vasyunov], with whom I played together for 7-8 years, wore that number.  What to do?  So took it and inverted it.  And got 42.

- I have to ask you: have you ever read the Douglas Adams book “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy?”

- No. What’s that?

- In it the number 42 is answer to the meaning of life and everything else.

- Really? – Anisimov is extremely surprised.  – I didn’t know.  I’ll have to read it.

- In English it’s called “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

- Thanks, I’d rather read it in Russian.  It’ll be easier.

Has Glen Sather found a way out of his latest bad contract?
Thursday March 03rd 2011, 12:32 am

Hey look you guys, I still have a blog!  My apologies for the extended absence. I can’t promise it won’t happen again, but for the time being I’m back with a couple of goodies foraged from the Russian press…

Derek Boogaard

Photo: Getty Images

When New York Rangers General Manager Glen Sather signed tough guy Derek Boogaard to a 4-year, $6.5 million contract last summer, the hockey world shook its collective head, sighed, and muttered “there he goes again.” And before the giant enforcer was felled by a concussion in early December, it looked like Sather had in fact saddled his team with yet another albatross contract.   Unable to compete — or keep up — at a satisfactory level for head coach John Tortorella, Boogaard rarely saw more than four or five minutes of ice time a night, sometimes playing as few as three or four shifts in a game.

Boogaard’s injury — he’s not expected to play again this season — has allowed Sather to avoid having to make any tough decisions this year. But there are three more years remaining on his contract.  And with the Rangers needing to re-sign a handful of core restricted free agents this summer, and likely to pursue big-ticket free agent Brad Richards on July 1st, Boogard’s $1.625 million worth of cap space must look awfully enticing.

Enter Andrei Nazarov, head coach of KHL goon squad Checkhov Vityaz.  You know, the team famous for giving NHL/AHL-rejects Chris Simon, Darcy Verot, Brandon Sugden and Josh Gratton a place to ply their trade.

In addition to his duties with Vityaz, Nazarov, a former NHL pugilist himself, is also an assistant coach for the Russian national team.  In that role, he is tasked with being the liaison between the team and Russian players in the NHL.  As a result, Nazarov was in New York for Tuesday’s tilt between the Rangers and Buffalo Sabres, checking up on Russian Ranger Artem Anisimov.  But as Sport-Express reporter Vasily Osipov reveals in his post-game interview with Nazarov, the veteran of 571 NHL games and 1,409 penalty minutes also spoke with his former Minnesota Wild teammate Boogaard, and may have had a secondary purpose for his trip…

- Isn’t it annoying to you that they call you a Black Cloud?  [All the teams Nazarov visited last season missed the playoffs, or made early exits.] The Rangers lost today…

- All these nicknames are how you journalists make your living – laughed Nazarov.  Us hockey people regard this with humor. I think they really call me the Dove of Peace.  Because I wish all our NHLers only good luck and success.

- How would you assess Anisimov’s aggressive and effective game?

- I’d like to refrain from public assessments until I talk with [national team head coach] Vyacheslav Bykov.  But you yourself saw all of Artem’s games this season: the progress in his game is obvious.  Tortorella is a unique and interesting coach, and that Anisimov was able to adapt to his requirements says a lot.  I managed to talk to several representatives of the Rangers, and all of them unanimously praise our legionary.  And it’s worth taking into account that he plays the center position, which is in rather short supply for Russian hockey.  All in all, the only thing that was left for me to do was to congratulate Artem.

- Will Anisimov help the national team at the World Championship in Slovakia?

- That’s not an entirely reasonable question, in view of the fact that Artem’s team is in a desperate fight for a place in the playoffs.  Incidentally, in speaking about Anisimov, we shouldn’t forget about our other legionary on the Rangers – Alexander Frolov.  He has a serious injury, but it’s during just such difficult times that the support and attention of his homeland is important for any player.

- And how would you comment on your interest in Boogard?

- It’s clear that nothing has been decided yet, and that general manager Alexei Zhamnov is ultimately in charge of personnel questions for Vityaz.  But I’ve known Derek ever since we played together for Minnesota, when he was taking his first steps in the NHL.  Even then I guessed that Boogard would make some noise in the League.  And that’s happened.

- I’ll phrase the question in another way: during your trip through the NHL are you searching for a fighter for Vityaz?

- First of all I’m here on national team business.  But — I won’t hide — the problem you mentioned is solved…

Standard disclaimer: Like all reports in the Russian press, this one should be taken with a grain of salt until confirmed by a North American source.

Osipov also spoke to Anisimov after the game — about his season, the national team, and being the focus of recent trade rumors for Brad Richards. A translation of their conversation is available here

Byers sends a message after asking for trade
Sunday November 14th 2010, 11:37 am

In 2004 the New York Rangers selected Nipawan, Saskatchewan native Dane Byers with the 48th overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft.  Two years later, Byers joined the organization and made his debut for the club’s AHL farm team, the Hartford Wolf Pack.  He’d spend the next four seasons with the Wolf Pack, putting up 72 goals and 162 points in 255 games en route to earning the team’s captaincy in December 2009 for his leadership and on-ice effort.

Less than a year later, having received only a six game cup of coffee in the NHL over his four year pro career, Byers saw the writing on the wall and asked to be traded.  On Thursday his wish was granted when the Rangers swapped the 24-year old heart-and-soul winger for 24-year old former Phoenix Coyotes seventh round draft pick Chad Kolarik, who was acquired by the Columbus Blue Jackets in a trade deadline deal last spring.

Byers’ request was issued shortly after sophomore winger Evgeny Grachev was re-recalled by the Rangers on October 28th.  Those who’ve watched the Wolf Pack play this season could see that Grachev, a highly-touted 2008 third round pick, was neither ready for the NHL, nor deserving of the reward based on his play in the AHL.  Yet the supposedly-skilled winger spent six games with the Rangers — primarily in a fourth line role best suited for Byers crash-and-bang style of play — the same amount of NHL action Byers has seen in four years in the organization.

The Rangers couldn’t have sent Byers a clearer message that he had no future in New York.

“I didn’t want to be a great AHL hockey player or a great Hartford Wolf Pack player,” Byers told Bruce Berlet after his new team, the Springfield Falcons, topped his old team in a shootout Saturday night.  “My goal is to play in the NHL, and sometimes you have to take a risk and move on. I just wanted an opportunity before I get too old.

It was a quirk of the schedule that Byers’ first game for his new club came in the arena he’d spent his entire professional career calling home.  And it looked like his replacement, Kolarik, would earn the night’s accolades when he scored to tie the game at two just under eight minutes into the third period and teammate Jeremy Williams scored his second of the game five minutes later to put the Wolf Pack ahead for the first time in the game.  But with 4:25 remaining in regulation, Byers’ one-timer off a cross-ice feed from Maksim Mayorov was tipped past goaltender Cam Talbot by Mike Blunden to send the two clubs to extra time.

An entertaining but scoreless overtime period led to a shootout, where Byers solidified his statement.  Shooting to clinch the win after teammate Tomas Kubalik had scored to give the Falcons a 1-0 lead and four Wolf Pack shooters — including Kolarik — had been thwarted by Springfield stopper and ex-Wolf Pack Chad LeNeveu, Byers beat Talbot high on the glove side to send the home crowd home disappointed.

Many of those who have rooted for Byers for four years couldn’t help but smile.

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